Coronavirus (COVID-19): IPL likely to happen but how will players reach after latest visa suspension?
As the World Health Organisation declares coronavirus a pandemic, the Government of India has suspended all tourist visas and e-visas granted on or before March 11. Will the IPL proceed as planned? What about the visas of foreign players?
As I write, a total of 134,769 Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases have been detected across the world, of which 4,983 have succumbed to the pandemic while 70,387 have recovered. In India - the host of the IPL - the count is at 73 at the moment.
It is only obvious that an outbreak at such a big level is bound to affect all other things, which includes cricket. While IPL may be the biggest extravaganza of the sport across the world, anything and everything is equal before nature and hence, the cash-rich league is also under threat.
As of now, the IPL will probably go the soccer way and be played behind closed doors. That is, the matches will go on as planned but there will be no spectators and the players will play in front of empty stands.
After the series opener between India and South Africa in Dharamsala was washed out, the remaining two games of the series will be played behind closed doors, the BCCI has confirmed. This has come on the back of a fresh advisory from the Indian government. It is probable that the IPL will also not allow any spectators inside the stadium.
"You are advised to adhere to the advisories issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and ensure that no public gathering takes place in any sporting event," the Government of India advisory read. "In the event the sporting event cannot be avoided, the same could be done without allowing gathering of people, including spectators."
The first big game of men's cricket that has gone down this route is the ODI series opener between New Zealand and Australia, hosted by the latter. After suspending the women's team's tour to South Africa, Cricket Australia has taken a precautionary step by denying any fans entry in the ground.
The Karachi games of the Pakistan Super League have also opted for a similar arrangement.
As the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a pandemic, the Government of India has suspended all tourist visas and e-visas granted on or before March 11. All incoming visitors including Indian nationals are advised against non-essential travel. “All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020,” it has said in the statement.
This has cast some doubt on whether or not the players will be granted visa. But, that isn't a cause for worry. The contracts signed by the IPL players come under the work/employment visa. After the contacts are signed, the IPL and the respective franchise sends a letter to the high commission of the country concerned to certify that the services of a player are being taken.
Hence, the arrival of players and the support staff in India, if they so choose, will not be a problem. Yes, their family will not be able to fly to the country due to the suspension of all tourist visas.
The Road Safety World Series T20, featuring legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, has also been postponed to a later date in view of the rising coronavirus threat in Maharashtra. The tournament had started last week on 7 February and was scheduled to run till 22 February but the organisers' official word is that the dates for the remaining seven games will be announced later.
There is hope that around April 15 or so, as the temperatures soar, the threat of the virus will decline. In line with this, the IPL Governing Council is all set to meet on Saturday, March 14 to discuss the coronavirus threat. It is likely that they rule at least the first half of the league to be played behind closed doors.
Once that call is taken, and the earlier it's taken the better, the organisers can that device ways like playing more matches at the same venue, hiring chartered planes for travel, booking and sanitising the entire hotel and more such measures to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.
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